Issue of September 25, 2016
Mt. Province

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Classified information revealing that about 124 government workers in the Cordillera, mostly barangay officials, have admitted having used illegal drugs only proves that the drug menace has infiltrated even leaders in the grassroots level.

The report says 83 of 124 of these drug offenders, who have voluntarily appeared or surrendered to the authorities, are punong barangays, kagawads, and tanods.

This happens, ironically, just as when the police and anti-narcotics office rallied the support of barangay officials to be front liners in the revitalized Barangay Anti-Drug Abuse Councils.

The inclusion of at least seven public school teachers as among the drug surrenderees also gives us more reason to be concerned for our kids, who we entrust to these educators considered as their second parents.

The release of information came at a time when the Senate is also hearing the ever increasing cases of extrajudicial killings or what the police now call as “deaths under investigation” while the Lower House is investigating in aid of legislation the so-called drug trade at the National Bilibid Prison (NBP).

For several weeks now, the “online divide” among Filipinos associated with allegations of maneuverings from political quarters is strongly felt. Even members of the Fourth Estate, who ought to report factual events as faithfully as they can, are being blamed for taking sides.

But this is not the time for the blame game too long now being played.

This is the time national unity is needed for ferreting out the truth so that families that have been ruined by the web of corruption keeping the illegal drug trade flourishing can feel the wheels of justice turning in their favor.

The way the Senate and the Lower House investigations are going, one can decipher how the web of corruption and tolerance to criminal activities, particularly on illegal drugs, affect even the lowest level of government on a national scale.

It is our hope that the ongoing hearings will eventually dismantle the corruption going on in the halls of power all the way down to the NBP involving the drug trade.

It is also our hope that reforms to overhaul the NBP management can take place through appropriate legislations and actions by concerned agencies led by the Department of Justice. This means inmates serving prison terms for heinous crimes should no longer be able to commandeer NBP authorities.

We hope that such reforms if indeed they can be achieved through legislation as a result of the ongoing hearings will cover all personnel of the Bureau of Corrections, from its custodians to prison guards. This in the hope that they can serve as better prison managers when they eventually take over the NBP anew once the PNP Special Action Force now assigned there leave the prison compound.

More than that, reforms that will help prisoners to become law-abiding citizens, not leaders of syndicated crimes, are direly needed.

Back home, the purge against drug offenders said to be in the drug watch list continues with assassins carrying out their mission in broad daylight like one mother just days ago shot to death near her husband in a busy section of the Baguio Public Market.

Baguio has never witnessed a series of killings in recent memory and it might be just a matter of time before a culture of fear or culture of impunity envelopes this ever-peaceful city if the task force created to probe extrajudicial killings in the city fails in its mandate.

But one of the most daunting tasks local government units and its partners from the private sector face today is engaging these drug surrenderees in rehabilitation programs to prepare them for reintegration into the social mainstream.

Rehabilitation must include these elected officials who have surrendered, as we don’t feel safe in the midst of leaders who themselves are drug offenders.


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